MindPT Blog

You Can't Fail If You Keep Going

16 Feb

If you want to lift a hundred pounds, you don't expect to succeed the first time. You start with a lighter weight and work up little by little. You actually fail to lift a hundred pounds, every day, until the day you succeed. But it is in the days when you are exerting yourself that the growth is occurring. – Dr Norman Doidge

I love the part of the quote where Dr Doidge says, You actually fail.... until the day you succeed."

Have you ever looked at success that way - you FAIL... until you succeed! Hey, sometimes, you make it on the first try but not always. Don't let the "not always" knock you down!

Look at failure from the perspective of a baby learning to walk.

She knows what she wants: to get from here to mama. Her instinct tells her to pull herself up and use those chubby, unsteady little legs to propel herself across the floor to mama’s arms.

Arms out for balance and a wide cowboy stance, she lets go of the chair and balances on two feet for the first time (“look ma, no hands!”)... wobbles and quite suddenly finds herself on her bottom. A momentary scrunching of the face, probably more in surprise than anything, but she’s okay with that “failure.” No time for wallowing in self-pity. Want mama! She downward-dogs herself up off the floor, pushes herself up to standing, wobbles forward for a step or two - biiiiiiiig smile! - and <whoomp> she’s on the floor again.

Up again, butt first to the sky because her head is disproportionately heavy. Wobble. Balance. Step. Wobble. Balance. Wobble. Step. Step. Whoomp. Pull up. Wobble. Step-whoa-whoa-whoa-barely controlled forward propulsion - but it’s walking!!!

There’s no “Uh, Mama? This walking thing is way harder than I thought. I don’t know if I’m cut out for it. Rug burns aside, crawling works. How many times am I going to fall? I’m tired of this! I obviously can’t do this, so, yeah… I guess the timing wasn’t right. Maybe next year. Can you come pick me up?”

Wobbles and butt-drops are part of the journey.

Somewhere along the line, though, we are taught that failure is a bad thing.

How different would life be if we knew that the lesson is in the failure itself. But we’re taught that failing is bad, so we avoid even trying. People warn us to be careful when taking on anything new - well meaning, to be sure, but instead of encouraging innovation and exploration, we unknowingly encourage each other to staying in the known comfort zone.

And we often agree. We don’t want to be punished with bad feelings of disappointment. Or worse, what other people will think about us.  

Ah, but failing is so necessary!

Going back to Dr Doidge’s statement... Wobbles and butt-drops are good (okay, HE didn't say that but the point is...) They teach balance. Pulling yourself up, even down-dog style, teaches resilience. Your brain and body need to learn to coordinate (can you just imagine, the little dude in the control room, yelling down to the engineer in the left leg “No, no, no, I said up-forward-down now, not wait-until-the-right-leg-goes-again”!). You need failure in order to master the skills.

Which means, you're never failing.

How can you be failing when you’re acquiring skills and knowledge? It’s impossible! You can’t fail, if you add to your quiver of life hacks and learn a way that doesn’t work. You can’t fail, if that failure is the experience that opens your eyes to a better approach. You can’t fail!

Look at anything you’ve learned and achieved so far. Did you get it right the first time? Maybe. Sometimes. Mostly not. Mostly you wobbled and butt-dropped until the day the light bulb went on and you figured it out. In hindsight, those oopsies were no big deal but at the time, they probably stung your ego while you sat there on the floor wondering what the heck just happened.

But you didn’t quit. Therefore you are NOT a failure.

Remind yourself that you’re not going to lift a hundred pounds unless you fail to do a bunch of times. Use that opportunity to build your muscles until they are able to carry that load.  

Failure is just part of the rehearsal, part of the way to mastery.

It’s a good thing.

The ONLY true failure is if you fail to get up and keep going.

If you failure-proof yourself with the right mindset, you’ll never stay down because you know that you feel most alive when you’re pulling yourself up and trying again. It’s all part of the grand adventure of life!


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Jarmila Gorman

Jarmila Gorman is an ultra-endurance athlete, mother of two, photographer, self-help writer and entrepreneur. She enjoys sharing the secrets of positive self-talk, motivation, a winning mindset and perseverance. Favorite quote: "Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try." ~ Yoda

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